EMMETT – Following a tumultuous special session of the Idaho Legislature last month, Rep. Heather Scott on Thursday applauded the group largely responsible for the mayhem, People’s Rights, an anti-government group led by Ammon Bundy.
Scott, R-Blanchard, said she was invited to speak at the meeting, but she didn’t know to whom she would be speaking. People’s Rights has been meeting regularly in an Emmett warehouse, which Bundy previously told the Idaho Press he owns, since the state-mandated shutdown this spring prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Scott went on to praise the group for its showing at the Idaho Legislature’s special session last month, which turned unruly and led to arrests; she encouraged members to elect officials, from mayors to county sheriffs, who won’t enforce coronavirus restrictions. Scott was greeted with applause when she tuned in via video call about one and a half hours into the meeting.
“I should be clapping for you guys,” Scott told the group. “You are where the real power is.”
Scott opined on three bills taken up during the special session, including an early version of a civil liability bill that she said was influenced by large insurance companies and other corporations. The bill the Legislature ultimately passed was “watered down” and a “success,” she said. She praised People’s Rights members for influencing the legislation through public testimony.
“It really didn’t do a lot,” Scott said of HB 6, a civil liability immunity bill designed to protect schools and businesses from lawsuits related to the virus. “I think a lot of that was thanks to your efforts. The testimony was unbelievable. It’s a shame that everything got overshadowed with the police and all the drama.”
The special session drew hundreds of protesters, many of them armed, who engaged in a skirmish with Idaho State Police troopers that led to a broken glass door on the session’s first day. The next two days saw multiple arrests for trespassing or resisting or obstructing officers, including of Bundy, an Emmett resident, who was arrested twice and barred from the state Capitol for a year.
ISP troopers arrested Bundy for refusing to leave a hearing room while the immunity bill was being debated in another room in the opposite wing of the Capitol.
The Thursday meeting, which was streamed live on Facebook, began with Bundy explaining People’s Rights’ organizational structure. Prompted by an audience question, Bundy said a short pitch to join the group is: “We’re uniting neighbors to defend rights.”
Group gatherings and protests rely on an opt-in text message system, managed by “area assistants” who are selected by “state assistants.” Bundy emphasized the group does not have a hierarchical structure, hence the title “assistant,” but rather provides the tools for organizing.
One of those text messages last month told members to come to the Capitol. Another message in April told members to target the home of the Meridian Police officer who arrested Sarah Brady, the Meridian mother who attended a protest with her children at a park playground closed due to the virus.
Bundy said People’s Rights is organizing in 16 or 17 states, with the goal of recruiting 100,000 people in each state.
“That makes a pretty powerful group of people,” he said.
Idaho has the second-highest participation, behind Washington, Bundy said.
Scott encouraged People’s Rights members to vote against state senators who unanimously tabled HCR 1, a concurrent resolution requiring approval from both houses of the Legislature that called for an end to the governor’s emergency declaration. Instead, senators passed a resolution vowing to take up the issue of emergency declaration at next year’s legislative session.
Scott also encouraged People’s Rights members to elect public officials that won’t enforce government-mandated health orders.
“We need to secure our communities,” she said. “We need to secure our county commissioners, we need to secure good sheriffs, good mayors that will not enforce unconstitutional edicts put out by the UN (United Nations), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), a tyrannical governor, a health district that has no authority.”
Scott, who lives in North Idaho, railed against media coverage of the special session and the amount of masks being worn in Boise.
“It was really sad for me to see so many people in Ada County with masks on,” she said.
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